the eight years that I have been working as Executive Director of the Pre-Trib
Research Center, there have been three major discoveries of writings teaching
some form of a pretribulational rapture. The most recent find has been brought
forth from an unexpected source that I will reveal to you in this article.
Why Is This Important?
many non-pretribulationists often formulate a historical argument against those
teaching the pre-trib rapture, it is important to know that some did teach a
rapture before the tribulation and distinct from the second coming. Rapture
critic Gary DeMar says, " All attempts to find a pretrib Rapture any earlier
than around 1830 do not stand up to historical scrutiny."  Of
course, J. N. Darby himself first discovered pretribulationism from his own
biblical studies during December 1826 and January 1827. But
there are those who preceded Darby, as I have written about in the past.
Critics of the rapture, like DeMar ask, " why didn' t anyone see this prior to
the nineteenth century if the pretrib Rapture ' is taught clearly?' " 
The belief by DeMar is that since pretribulationism, he believes, is not found
earlier throughout church history, then that means its not found in the Bible.
I disagree. Whether something is in the Bible depends upon whether it is in
the Bible. It has nothing to do with how many people did or did not observe it
in the Bible. Nevertheless, I will look at the historical evidence.
Pre-Darby Rapture Occurrences
I noted earlier, I think that at least three instances of pre-Darby
pretribulationism have surfaced in the last eight years. The first is the
statement by Pseudo-Ephraem, as brought to our attention by Grant Jeffrey.
This rapture statement is as follows:
Why therefore do we not reject every care of
earthly actions and prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ, so
that he may draw us from the confusion, which overwhelms all the world? . . .
For all the saints and elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that
is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to
overwhelm the world because of our sins.
sermon was written between a.d.
374- 627, well before the nineteenth century. Dr. Robert Gundry of Westmont
College, a leading posttribulationist, wrote a critique of our Pseudo-Ephraem
findings. I answered his objections in our book
The Return, thus,
demonstrating further why a pretrib understanding of Pseudo-Ephraem stands.
came the discovery of Morgan Edwards who wrote about his pretrib beliefs in
1744 and later published them in 1788. Edwards taught the following:
II. The distance between the first and second
resurrection will be somewhat more than a thousand years.
I say, somewhat more- , because the dead saints will be raised, and the
living changed at Christ's "appearing in the air" (I Thes. iv. 17);
and this will be about three years and a half before the millennium, as we shall see hereafter: but will he and they
abide in the air all that time? No: they will ascend to paradise, or to some
one of those many "mansions in the father's house" (John xiv. 2), and
disappear during the foresaid period of time. The design of this retreat and disappearing will
be to judge the risen and changed saints; for "now the time is come that
judgment must begin," and that will be "at the house of God" (I
Pet. iv. 17) . . . (p. 7; The spelling of all Edwards quotes have been
has Edwards said? Edwards clearly separates the rapture from the second coming
by three and a half years. He uses modern pretrib rapture verses (1 Thess.
4:17 and John 14:2) to describe the rapture. He, like modern
pretribulationists, links the time in heaven, during the tribulation, with the "bema"
judgment of believers.
only difference, at least as far as the above statements go, between current
pretribulationism and Edwards is the time interval of three and a half years
instead of seven. This does not mean that he is a midtribulationist, since it
appears that he thought the totality of the tribulation was three and a half,
not seven years.
Brother Dolcino and
the recent meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on November 14-16,
2001 in Colorado Springs, Francis X. Gumerlock presented a paper entitled
" Before Darby: Expanding the Historical Boundaries of Pretribulationism."
Gumerlock argues that someone named Brother Dolcino and his sect called the
Apostolic Brethren taught a pretrib rapture around a.d. 1304. Gumerlock found this material in a
text called The History of Brother Dolcino. Gumerlock explains:
The History of
Brother Dolcino was composed in
1316 by an anonymous notary of the diocese of Vercelli in northern Italy. This
short Latin treatise gives a firsthand account of the deeds and beliefs of a
religious order called the Apostolic Brethren. Under the leadership of Brother
Dolcino, the Apostolic Brethrne flourished in the author' s diocese between the
years 1300 and 1307. The text was recopied in 1551, and
in the 1600' s was used as source material for two other ecclesiastical
histories of the area. The treatise was later printed in the 1740' s in the
25-volume Rerum Italicarum Scriptores. And it was most recently edited in
1907 with the reprint of this multi-volume set, where it contains fourteen
pages of Volume Nine.
provides the following history of Brother Dolcino and the Apostolic Brethren
In 1260, Gerard Sagarello
founded the Apostolic Brethren after his application for membership with the
Franciscans was rejected. Like the Franciscans, the Apostolic
Brethren were committed to radical poverty and itinerant preaching of the
Gospel. However, at that time the founding
of new religious orders was strictly forbidden by the pope and several church
councils. Consequently, the Apostolic Brethren were objects of persecution,
and in 1300 their leader, Gerard, was burned at the stake. Brother Dolcino,
who had been a member of the Apostolic Brethren for a number of years, took over
leadership of the order in that year. At one point under his leadership, the
Apostolic Brethren had grown to about 4,000 members.
order under Dolcino' s leadership withdrew to the mountainous areas of northern
Italy, near Novara and Vercelli. But the size of the order and their need for
daily sustenance, resulted in clashes with local authorities. In 1306, a bull
was drawn up by Pope Clement V, and a crusade was launched against them. In
1307, over 400 members of the Apostolic Brethren were slaughtered by papal
forces. Dolcino was captured, mutilated, and burned at the stake.
reason Gumerlock believes that Brother Dolcino and the Apostolic Brethren
taught pretribulationism is found the following statement:
" Again, [Dolcino
believed and preached and taught] that within those three years Dolcino himself
and his followers will preach the coming of the Antichrist. And that the
Antichrist was coming into this world within the bounds of the said three and a
half years; and after he had come, then he [Dolcino] and his followers would be
transferred into Paradise, in
which are Enoch and Elijah. And in this way they will be preserved unharmed
from the persecution of Antichrist.
And that then Enoch and Elijah themselves would descend on the earth for the
purpose of preaching [against] Antichrist. Then they would be killed by him or
by his servants, and thus Antichrist would reign for a long time. But when the Antichrist is dead, Dolcino
himself, who then would be the holy pope, and his perserved followers, will
descend on the earth, and will
preach the right faith of Christ to all, and will convert those who will be
living then to the true faith of Jesus Christ." 
clearly believes that this is a pretrib rapture statement as he concludes:
For this fourteenth-century text, The History
of Brother Dolcino, shows us
that some Christians in the middle ages held a view of the rapture that had
basic elements of what we call today a pretribulation rapture. These include a
significant gap of time between the rapture of the saints and their subsequent
descent to earth, and the purpose of the rapture related to escaping end-time
tribulation. And on this basis, I submit my case for expanding the historical
boundaries of pretribulationism.
more amazing than Gumerlock' s discover itself is the fact that Gumerlock is
very much opposed to pretribulationism and most likely even premillennialism.
Further, the entity that published Gumerlock' s book The Day and the Hour is American Vision, which is directed by rapture
opponent Gary DeMar. I noted above that DeMar said, " All attempts to find a
pretrib Rapture any earlier than around 1830 do not stand up to historical
scrutiny."  In fact DeMar not only published
Gumerlock' s book, he wrote a glowing foreword to it. Yet Gumerlock says about
Brother Dolcino in The Day and the Hour that, " The Dolcinites held to a pre-tribulation rapture theory
similar to that in modern dispensationalism."  Either DeMar doesn' t
really believe the research of Gumerlock in The Day and the Hour, or he doesn' t know much about the true history
of the rapture. Either way, DeMar' s statement about 1830 has been weighed and
found wanting by one of his own colleagues. Gumerlock hits the nail on the
head when he says, " Especially in need of rethinking are those views which
place the origin of the teaching, or its initial recovery, within the last two
hundred years."  I couldn' t have said it better
 Gary DeMar, End Times Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left Behind
Theology, (Nashville: Thomas
Nelson, 2001), p. 19.
 Thomas Ice, " Is The Pre-Trib Rapture A Satanic
Deception?" Pre-Trib Perspectives,
(Vol. II, No. 1; March 1995), p. 2. Single copies of back issues of Pre-Trib Perspectives can be obtained by writing The Pre-Trib Research Center, P O Box
14111, Arlington, Texas 76094.
 DeMar, End Times Fiction, p. 23.
 Pseudo-Ephraem, On the Last Times, the
Antichrist, and the End of the World,
section 2, translated by Cameron Rhoades, produced by The Pre-Trib Research
Center. See Timothy J. Demy and Thomas D. Ice, " The Rapture and an Early
Medieval Citation, Bibliotheca Sacra, (Vol. 152, No. 607; July-September 1995), pp. 306-17. Reprinted in
Thomas Ice and Timothy J. Demy, The Return: Understanding Christ' s Second
Coming and the End Times (Grand
Rapids: Kregel, 1999), pp. 55-66.
 Bob Gundry, First the Antichrist: Why Christ
Won' t Come Before The Antichrist Does
(Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997), pp. 161-88.
 Ice and Demy, The Return, pp. 67-73.
 Morgan Edwards, Two Academical Exercised on
Subjects Bearing the following Titles; Millennium, Last-Novelties (Philadelphia: self-published, 1788). See
Thomas Ice, " Morgan Edwards: Another Pre-Darby Rapturist," Pre-Trib
Perspectives (Vol. II, No. 4;
Sept/Oct 1995), pp. 1-3.
 Francis X. Gumerlock, The Day and the Hour: A
Chronicle of Christianity' s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of
the World (Powder Springs, GA:
American Vision, 2000), p. 80.
 Anonymous, Historia Fratris Dulcini, 1316.
 Dolcino wrote three circular letters, but these
are no longer extant. Historia Fratris Dulcini is in Codice Ambrosiano-H. 80. It was edited in
1551, and was utilized in the 1600' s in several other ecclesiastical histories
of the area of Vercelli and Novara. The date of 1316 is confirmed in R.
Kestenberg-Gladstein, " The Third Reich: A Fifteenth-Century Polemic Against
Joachism, and Its Background" in Delno West, ed., Joachim of Fiore in
Christian Thought, Vol 2 (New
York: Burt Franklin & Co., 1975), 599, no. 49. Eugenio Anagnine describes
the Historia as a " opera stesa
probabilmente da un contemporaneo di Biella (1304-7)." See Eugenio Anagnine, Dolcino
(Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1964), p. 1.
 L.A. Muratori, ed., Rerum Italicarum
Scriptores, Old Series, Vol. 9
(Italy, 1723-1751), p. 436.
 Francis X. Gumerlock, " Before Darby: Expanding
the Historical Boundaries of Pretribulationism," A paper presented at the 53rd
Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Colorado Springs,
November 14-16, 2001, p. 2.
 Many followers of the eschatology of Joachim of
Fiore (d. 1202) expected a last-days reform of the Church to occur in 1260, a
year that corresponds with the 1260 days mentioned in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5.
 A contemporary of the Apostolic Brethren,
Salimbene, in his Chronicle,
gives an account of the order under the leadership of Gerard Sagarello. See The
Chronicle of Salimbene de Adam,
Joseph L. Baird, Giuseppe Baglivi, and John Robert Kane, eds. Medieval and
Renaissance Texts and Studies 40 (Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance
Texts and Studies, 1986). Members of the order wore woolen mantels and sandals
and went about northern Italy and other countries preaching " Penitenz-agite," a
colloquialism for " Paenitentiam agite!," the Gospel injunction to repent.
 There are quite a number of books and articles in
Italian on Dolcino and the Apostolic Brethren, but very few in English.
Comprehensive treatments in English include Antonio Gallenga, A Historical
Memoir of Fra Dolcino and His Times
(London: Longman, Green, and Longman, 1853); and John William Siedzik, Fra
Dolcino and the Apostolic Brethren,
Master' s thesis (University of California, 1952), which is available from that
university on microfilm.
 Gumerlock, " Before Darby," p. 3.
 Gumerlock' s translation of the Latin text in
Gumerlock, " Before Darby," p. 3.
 Gumerlock, " Before Darby," p. 6.
 See Gumerlock, The Day and the Hour, pp. 1-3, where he describes his journey away
 DeMar, End Times Fiction, p. 19.
 Gumerlock, The Day and the Hour, p. 80.
 Gumerlock, " Before Darby," p. 6.